One of my favorite junk-era sets is Fleer’s 1990 issue, which marked their 10th Anniversary of producing regular-issue card sets. The clean design, the awesome-for-1990-prospectors rookie crop (10/10 on the nostalgia scale), the inserts (Soaring Stars are great-looking cards), and the interesting batch of errors and variations within it, are all reasons for me to continue breaking a box here and there.
But 1990 Fleer also holds one of the rarer error cards of the junk-wax era, card #353, Dave Martinez, was originally printed with the little ’90 by logo, in yellow, rather than red. Very few of these were produced, though how many remains ambiguous.
Though nothing is certain, it was my understanding that these cards were found in a specific type of retail packaging very early on in the run. Again, since such little information is out there on this card, it’s origin of distribution remains a mystery. As I touched on earlier, this card was (is still?) priced in the Beckett guide at $2.
I’ll take 50 of them, please!
Over the majority of the last 20 years of watching magazine buy/sell ads, sportsnet and ebay auctions, I was unable to find a copy for sale. Until around 2007, when a copy sold for a buy-it-now of $7 (a BIN I missed – needless to say, that was an ugly day at my house). Likely due to the seller setting the BIN based on the hilarious Beckett price of $2 at the time. It wasn’t until a year or so later, that I found a small group of these for sale on the Beckett Marketplace site and quickly grabbed them up, sight unseen. A few have popped up since then. I want to say somewhere between 2-4 copies, an unbelievably small amount in comparison to how much 1990 Fleer was produced and far fewer than the 1989 Fleer Jeff Treadway Target variation – another Fleer variety known for it’s scarcity. The few I owned sold at auction between $70-100 (roughly) a piece but the handful that sold after those, sold much lower, likely due to a number of factors, not indicative of the card’s actual scarcity.
Obviously, the price is one of those made-up-because-we-want-to-acknowledge-it-but-have-no-idea-what-it’s-worth entries into the annual guides like the 1990 Upper Deck Mike Witt. Even the most recent sale (within the last 18 months), somewhere around $25, is very conservative and most likely due to a poor market and ebay’s dwindling reputation as an auction site and it’s apparent change toward an online outlet mall.
If you have the chance to own one of these, and the price isn’t outrageous, I’d go for it. 20 years and counting, and less-than 10 known examples circulating (and yes, I’m sure several more traded hands back in 1990 and that more than 10 are out there), makes this a very difficult variation to track down – if this were a Topps issue, it would be trading at the 1980 Fred Stanley levels. Let’s hope the price guide editors take notice, give this card a little love and update the price to something that resembles the scarcity of it. Once that happens, who knows, maybe more will pop out of the woodwork?